African American literature, body of literature written by Americans of African descent. Beginning in the pre-Revolutionary War period, African American writers have engaged in a creative, if often contentious, dialogue with American letters. The result is a literature rich in expressive subtlety and social insight, offering illuminating assessments of American identities and history. Although since 1970 African American writers, led by Toni Morrison, have earned widespread critical acclaim, this literature has been recognized internationally as well as nationally since its inception in the late 18th century.
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